The Power & Politics of Breasts, Motherhood & Media

So, I went on a quick run, eventually read the cover article, and I needed more time…get it? 

The actual article focused on Dr. Sears, the father of attachment parenting. Oh the irony. The cover shows a White, blonde, attractive woman with her 3-year-old son teetering on a stool to nurse, but the actual story is about a now much older White male and his changing theories and advice on parenting.

Parenting. But somehow parenting gets captured in that image of all images the magazine editors could have come up with? 

Thanks for the reminder that I am in America where breastfeeding becomes some sort of visual gauge of being enough of a mother because there are plenty of places in the rest of the world where infants are dying because women aren’t “mom enough” because there isn’t food enough, prenatal care enough, postnatal care enough. Enough.

I’ll just put it out there. Breastfeeding my children until they were of preschool age never, ever, ever crossed my mind. I never read Dr. Sears or any attachment parenting books. I actually don’t believe I or my husband could ever do enough to ensure our kids feel safe or comforted.

We could never change our parenting enough because for all of the physical presence we gave and could have given them, we would never be enough for the reality of this broken and beautiful world.

I am not mom enough, but I am grateful God is more than enough. So to my Christ-following sisters, let’s stop comparing ourselves to one another and to that imaginary “Enough Mom” and turn our eyes back on the One who chose an unwed teenager who would never be enough to be the mother of our Lord Jesus. We cannot be enough for our kids, but we can nurture their souls and spirits to be open to know that God is always enough.

This is a dangerous post because it’s really on the fly…I knew this magazine cover was hitting the stands, but now it’s sitting on my desk, and there are too many thoughts running through my Asian American Christian woman working mommy brain of mine to keep up with my typing….

Have you seen it? 

I don’t know of any non-White extended breastfeeding moms in the U.S. because here in America we have all sorts of options, including being able to work hard at being able to breastfeed our own children. (Wet nurses are a necessity in other places of the world, btw.)

But the “Are You Mom Enough” language, and the woman’s body language, and the fact that the actual article is about how Dr. Bill Sears is the man who lead the charge in attachment parenting (the article is titled “The man who remade motherhood”) just reminds me that even motherhood can come under the umbrella of men – White men, dominant culture.

And then we are set up to compete against each other – do you breastfeed as long as she does? are you a good enough mother? are you mom enough? can you handle it?

Gahhhhhh!

And then all the internal dissonance – I breastfed all three of my children, and there were many times I freaked out both men and women when I whipped out my blanket to cover my offensive breast to feed my non-offensive child. It’s crazy to see Jamie Lynn stand there with such strength showing less breast than what I saw walking down the red carpet on Oscar night, and to know that there is going to be a lot of crazy talk about this cover.

Wow. Just wow.

I’m going to read the article after I take a short run with my husband, who knew as soon as he got the mail that we would be in for a great conversation. So many thoughts…

What are your initial thoughts? Rants? Raves?

Don’t worry. I’ll be back.

5 Comments

  1. I wrote a post about this over at my blog, but in summation I feel like families ought to do what works for them. Clearly extended breastfeeding works for this mom, and rather than bash her, we need to let her be.

    Reply
    • Kathy Khang May 16, 2012

      Unfortunately the headline was written to do just the opposite – we can’t let her or other moms “be”. We need to compare and compete.

      Reply
  2. Jean May 11, 2012

    Really, if they a chose a less attractive woman breastfeeding, I’m the cover wouldn’t look to sexualized. It does to me.

    I had friend visit with her hubby and child There were 8 other guests. She shocked us all by whipping out breast to her 3 yr. child in the living rm. 2 of the guests were conservative Mennonite! I saw my Mennonite friend turn stone cold, her husband was embarrassed. They don’t have any children.

    the irony is that the breastfeeding mother was a strong Christian herself so in a way I was disappointed she didn’t exercise discretion with the Mennonites in our presence.

    Anyway….I don’t recommend breastfeeding in older children with other guests around. Just doesn’t work/well understand.

    Reply
  3. Tracey May 16, 2012

    Great point that this is an example where motherhood is being defined by a man. I’m annoyed and frustrated about that – doesn’t that seem weird to anyone else? Really – women need to be told how to be mothers by a man?

    Reply
  4. jeannielogan May 16, 2012

    Ughh there is so much i would like to say about this whole conversation, not the least of which is frustration that this subject even continues to be a matter of public discourse. Clearly, Time is just trying to sell magazines by tapping into the most volatile angst among middle class (mostly) white American women- our own insecurities about our mothering, not to mention how it’s deeply intertwined with our culturally-instilled insecurities about our breasts. it’s our insecurities that cause us to judge and be critical of other women and their choices, and that’s what this debate is all about. Extended breastfeeding is not newsworthy, attachment parenting is not a new idea… We need to realize that these mommy wars needlessly pit woman against woman, and that the editors of Time have quite cleverly banked on us getting sucked in once again. No pun intended!!

    Reply

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